ME & MY LIBRARY
I am not ashamed to say I love my local library. As a conservative, I wish that it could be funded some other way than government plunder, but it’s not a perfect world, is it? And as a classical homeschooler, the books we get there play a huge role in our curriculum. But it’s not just the books.
My children have only just graduated out of toddlerhood and into childhood, so our library storytime days aren’t far behind us. Our neighborhood librarian has been an icon for years, preaching to young moms about the importance of reading to their children (5 books a day!!) and seeking to expose kids to great kids’ books that would inspire a lifetime of reading. A puppet named Krissy Koala who gives out hugs at the end of each storytime doesn’t hurt kids’ interest either. During those toddler years, I can’t tell you how many times I had gotten 3 hours of sleep and my kids and I would show up at the library 15 minutes late with crazy hair and mismatched clothes. Regardless, we were welcomed with a smile and given 45 minutes of crafts and snacks and reading fun together. The library was such a reprieve from many of the trials and tribulations of everyday life, and there were moms (and dads) in desperate situations that brought their kids for a few minutes of sanity. I have seen the good that it did in their lives and my own. Now that we’re homeschooling, we have less time to play with them. But we do need more help looking through the stacks and ordering particular school books, and our librarians, Dorothy and Lloyd and Jeanette, are old friends now who are a bit like aunts and uncles. They comment on our new dresses and ask my kids about summer vacation or their latest favorite book. And honestly, if your library doesn’t have a Mr. Lloyd, you should get one. His stories about his farm and the baby animals that get into all kinds of trouble are worth a trip to the library in themselves.
As a Christian, though, I haven’t been under the illusion that our library is safe for years now. Libraries–both community and public school ones–are as only as good as the librarians, authors, and patrons who support them. And since the Biblical prophet Jeremiah tells us that the human heart “is deceitful above all things,” the pitfalls for children and adults in a library are legion. Most of them are the same challenges we find in the rest of our culture and our own hearts, and they tend to center around the simple principle of idolatry. An idol is anything that takes the place of God in our lives as our first love, and libraries are full of some of the most artful, well-crafted, and glorious idols that you could ever hope to meet, all nicely arranged by reading level and topic. In fact, for many caretakers of books in our society–publishers, authors, librarians, etc.–books themselves have become an idol and the center of a pluralistic religion.
Banned Books Week is next week, and it’s a time when many Americans will be thinking about the rights and responsibilities of libraries in a free society. In light of this, we’d like to ask, what can Christians offer the debate? Are we required to try to sanitize our libraries of all of their idols? Or should we mind our own business, keeping quiet even if pornography or racism appear on the lowest bookshelves? What is the appropriate Christian response? These are touchy questions, and many Christians will disagree about how to answer them. But Janie and I feel they need to be asked, and we hope to engage many of you on them in the coming two weeks. We also have two authors who’ve kindly consented to interviews that we hope will add further insight on the subject. (We’ll announce them soon, so keep watching…)
No matter your point of view, we hope you can agree with us that the first place a Christian should start is by seeking the Lord, and then seeking to bring His love tangibly into the libraries in our communities.
LIGHT YOUR LIBRARY
We love libraries. We love librarians. But like any other part of our fallen world, libraries are spiritual battlegrounds. Janie and I invite you to join us in a gospel-centered response to Banned Books Week, the last week of September:
- PRAY: We’d like you first of all to pray and possibly fast with us, asking the Lord to redeem American libraries and book culture. That He would confirm the good they already do in our communities, but that He would also work in the hearts of librarians as well as authors, publishers, and patrons to create books and a reading culture that truly glorifies Him and meets the deepest needs of all people.
- THINK: We’ll be hosting several guest posters over the next couple of weeks, as well as approaching the issue from various perspectives. Even if you disagree with others’ point of view, we will have to opportunity to show onlookers what Christian charity means. We ask you to think deeply and respond kindly on these important issues. (And we’re asking God to help us do the same!)
- LOVE: We’ll discuss practical ways that you can impact your library and love your librarian, as well as the children she serves.
- WIN: And yes, we’ll have books you can win! See below.
We’ve asked several Christian authors and leaders this question: If you could give one Christian kids’ book to every library in America, what would it be? (That includes books for adults that could be read by teenagers, by the way.) We hope to post their suggestions on Friday, September 30th as a capstone for Banned Books Week. However, in the meantime, we’d like to hear your suggestions? What book do you think could make the biggest impact for Christ in our culture?
I’ll randomly (providentially?) pick one winner from the submissions we receive in the comments to this post to receive two copies of Simonetta Carr’s new biography, Athanasius. That’s one copy for your family and another for your library or another book-lover in your life. We may have some other prizes as well, so stay tuned. We’ll announce the winners on Friday, September 30th. And we hope that some of you might even feel led to gift one of the books recommended below to your library!
A CONVERSATION STARTER
Janie and I have gotten so much conversation fodder from a recent interview on NPR with YA author Lauren Myracle and Wall Street Journal book critic, Meghan Cox Gurdon. We think every Christian parent can benefit from the questions addressed. And since Megan Cox Gurdon will be joining us later in the week (whoops! I let is slip!), we hope that many of you will take a few minutes to listen to the audio here.
If you don’t want to miss any of the fun, be sure to “like” us on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/redeemedreader. We’ll have updates and links throughout the week, as well as announce our winners in the end.